Start Here for Success

 This article was updated on January 16, 2020

“I’m buried in data. How can I make sense of it all?”
“When should I do research?”
“What’s the right way to answer these questions?”

Does any of this sound familiar? Over and over, we hear product managers, marketers, even CEOs, asking these questions. Over the past 19-plus years, we’ve helped hundreds of them get clarity by working backward from their end goal. This is the question we ask, to get started:

“What decision do you want to make?” or “What action can’t you take now, that you’ll be able to take if you have more clarity?”

Most often, if you can answer one (or both) of these, you’ll be in a much better position to map out the research you need. When you’ve answered them, you’ll know:

  1. When the decision or action must be taken (and from that, figure out how far in advance you’ll need to start the research).
  2. Whether you need to observe, have conversations, or do experiments to get the answers.
  3. What data is, and isn’t, relevant.
  4. Who needs to be involved.

You’ll be able to decide whether you can sort this out yourself, or if you need help. You’ll know if the answer needs to be quantified, with numbers (such as for a forecast), or if it needs a qualitative approach (getting your engineering team to see customers’ frustration as they try to use feature X). And you’ll waste less money, time, and effort getting something that’s useful, practical, helpful, and actionable. 

Whatever your questions, we’re happy to work with you until you see everything you need.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. Our company name means “see everything”, because we work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions that will help them find, know, and keep customers. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. For weekly insights to help you make better decisions, subscribe with the orange button, below. 


Give them what they want!

Do you have a global business, or are you considering expanding or exporting? You might know that we’ve been travelling this past week – to the UK and Germany. One of our favourite things to do when we’re in a new market or a foreign country, is to explore an ordinary activity, and ask, “what’s different here”?

Above is the condiments collection at a Sainsbury’s cafeteria. The breakfasts were similar, with a few different menu items (even here in Canada the big breakfast doesn’t differ that much from the Full English Breakfast). But this collection of condiments was very different than what we might receive with the average cheap and cheerful breakfast here at home. Some of the things that reminded us that every market develops in response to customers, not the other way around, included:

Condiments collections are adapted to local tastes, even in quite similar jurisdictions. Payment options varied from country to country. “Contactless” – the equivalent of our debit “tap” – was popular in the UK, but didn’t always work with foreign cards like ours. In Germany, debit isn’t an option in most places unless you have a local account. And although many products on the shelves were easily identifiable, even under new brand names, once in awhile there were packages and presentations that completely confounded us.

So what’s all this got to do with you and your customers? Just a friendly reminder, that it’s about what *they* want, not about what you want to give them. Do yourself a favour, and make sure you consider the small subtleties that put the local in your global offerings. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with you and your team to help you see everything you need to know to make better decisions, so you can find, know, and keep your best customers. You can find more content from us daily on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And for weekly offers, recommendations, and ideas, sign up for content specially curated for you. We’ve added a button below to make it easy. 


​I’d love to have my own business – if only I knew what kind of business to start!

Does this sound familiar? For me, I’m always surprised when I hear this, although I hear it over and over again. The easiest business to start is one that solves a problem, one that people will pay to have solved. Whether that’s creating delicious homemade cakes that make the person celebrating feel extra-special, to measuring air quality and helping clients to put systems in place to improve it so they can breathe better, or even providing custom home renovation services for someone with ideas but who’s all thumbs – businesses that solve problems or challenges are simply easier to sell. That’s because you don’t need to invest as much time educating the customer as to why they would want to solve that problem in the first place. They’re already actively looking for a solution!

Of course, the next step is a bit trickier: you also need to have the wherewithal to solve the problem. If you’re not a baker, or an environmental scientist, or handy with tools and building materials, none of our examples are going to be a fit for you. So what CAN you do? This is an area where mind-mapping can come in handy. The mind-map is a great tool for capturing a lot of free-flowing, uncensored ideas. Set a timer for 15 minutes – no more. This is more work than it sounds, and by then you’ll need a break from thinking. Get yourself a large piece of paper, or a white board, or a large expanse of wall and a stack of sticky notes. Start by writing down all the things you can do, that solve problems for people. Capture everything. Don’t try and narrow it down yet. What sorts of things do people ask you to do already, because you’re good at them, or you know how to do them in a unique way, or because those same people don’t know how to do them for themselves? Keep writing. If one “job” makes you think of another, great. Write that one down too. Just keep going until the timer tells you to stop. Although it might be tough to get started, I’m pretty certain you’ll be on a roll as you move toward the end of your 15 minutes. Ideas always bring more ideas.

Now, go get a drink of water, or a cup of tea, or take a little walk. Then  come back to your mind-map. It’s time to start sorting. Which ones do you really like doing? Which are you uniquely qualified to do, more than most people? And here’s the million-dollar question: which will people pay you to do? Often the things you’re best at, or that are most enjoyable, don’t obviously intersect with what customers will pay for. It’s up to you to find that intersection between work that works for you, and work that’s lucrative enough to make a living. So while I never advocate working at work you dislike every day, if something feels like a real calling, AND you feel like you’re fairly compensated for doing it, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it when your business hits its inevitable valleys.

Do you have some ideas that look like they might actually be the start of a business? Great! Next time let’s talk about ways to see whether customers really will pay what you think they’ll pay – or in more technical language, defining and validating your value proposition.

14 Things to Ask Now For a Better Business Year

This is a re-post of a blog from 2018, but the advice is still worth sharing…

Are you planning to grow by starting a new business over the next year? Or do you just want to make more money from the business you’re in? Those are the first two questions to explore. If you haven’t already, take time today to figure out what you want, and it will help you get off on the right foot for a strong 2018. Imagine if this time next year, were busier and more successful than ever!

These are the 14 Questions that will help you get there:

If you’re not into DIY, or you’d like help putting your plan together to answer one or more of these, we’d love to help. Whether you need strategic research, a facilitated strategy session, coaching, a speaker or a workshop, we’re looking forward to seeing you succeed. 

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to find, know, and keep customers. You can find daily content from us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and for weekly ideas delivered straight to your inbox, you can subscribe using the orange button, below. 


Which is worse? Sunk cost, or sinking your whole business?

Sinking ship Pendleton
We see startups and “stay ups” all the time, reaching a point where their costs are escalating as they work to get their product or service to market. Sometimes the issue is insufficient validation at the early stages. Other times, it can be that new information comes to light that wasn’t previously available – and it is a complete game-changer. The trouble arises when there has already been significant investment in taking the current route. Those sunk costs make it incredibly expensive reverse the engines or take a new tack. 


At times like that, it’s helpful to think of the current way forward as a metaphorical sinking ship. No matter how much you’ve invested, you’re better to get out with your life (and that of your product or service), than to hang on because of your sunk costs.

If you’ve sunk a lot of time and effort into your business, and evidence is making the way forward less evident, rather than clearer, we’re here to help.

We’re Megann and Steve Willson, and we’re the Founders and Partners of PANOPTIKA. We’ll work with you and your team to help you see everything you need to know to make better business decisions. You can find us on social media, too – on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Sign up for our weekly news before the next issue drops on Friday afternoon, using the orange button, and learn what else we’re learning by working with B2B customers around the world.


The Wisdom of The (Right) Crowd…



Crowdsourcing is a fantastic way to get ideas, feedback, information, and synergistic thinking. As long as you’re hanging with the right crowd. 

Thinking carefully about who needs to be in the room for your sprint, who should be invited to respond to your survey, or whose opinion will really make a difference when you are interviewing experts for a report, has never been more important.

If you need help deciding who to ask, poll, invite, or share your concept with, just ask. We do that.

3 ways targeting will help you build a better product

Target with arrows
Last week was jam-packed with events! We had a great time at one of them, watching startups, students, facilitators and generally-interested folks collaborate to come up with new ideas to help a young business grow and flourish. Everything was going swimmingly, until we heard this: 

“The first iteration of our product has had a great response and excellent feedback. With release 2 we hope to find out who our target market is.”

SCREEEEEEEEECH! What’s wrong with this picture? We love to work with growing companies, helping them develop and build their business model and validate their canvas. Getting them to ship their MVP (minimum viable product) instead of adding every possible feature all at once is exciting! Can you imagine our disappointment when we hear words that mean, “We came up with a solution to a problem, or helped a customer do a job that needs doing…but we don’t know who that customer is”?

If you’ve got a product or a prototype, and you haven’t yet validated that there are customers, and who those customers are, you’re investing an awful lot of effort in something that may never fly. Wouldn’t you rather have a product that really does “sell itself”, because it:

  1. Is just what your customer needs?
  2. Has a customer who is already looking for a solution, and is willing to pay?
  3. Adds value in some way that other solutions don’t?

If you’re worried that your latest product or service has gotten off on the wrong foot, and is flying around in search of a customer, we can help you figure out who the customer is, or isn’t, and validate that they want what you’re selling. Moreover, let’s put together your Value Proposition Canvas together, and get your business growing!

We’re Megann and Steve Willson, and we’re the Partners and Founders here at PANOPTIKA. If you need help to find, understand, or keep customers, and you’re a B2B (business-to-business) company, you’re in OUR target market. We’ll help you grow your business and make more money. You can find us on Twitter, on Facebook, or on LinkedIn. With a click of the orange button below this post, you can also subscribe for insights, offers, and ideas to help you see everything you need to know, to make better decisions.